Syria Series: Orient Express 4


It was on the Orient Express that I first discerned that adult Arabs (especially old men) seem to think it’s okay for all children to consume gobs and gobs of sugar. It’s okay even for children who have no molars and are unaccustomed but having anything but milk or mush in their mouths. It’s okay even for the offspring of mothers who have sworn their children will never be tainted with sugar.

A mommy sees this baby and wants to hug it and kiss it and all it hers. An old Arab man sees this baby and wants to make silly noises at it and stuff it with candy.

What was perhaps equally perplexing was how these men almost always seemed to have candy to pass out. It was like Halloween all year round, except, instead of holding out a bag, I held out my baby, and old men would come offering goodies of all sorts: Toblerone chocolate bars, bags of rich confections, peppermints, even cough drops. 

I would smile politely and accept the candy. Then, in hiding, I would savor each chocolate bar as I pondered on whether that guy really thought I was going to feed this to my seven-month-old baby. Or was this candy intended more as a prize for my having reproduced? I finally settled on the latter answer. I was a total winner.